8 ♠ The Murders in the Rue Morgue

Another re-read and another Dupin – hurrah!

One of the many wonderful things about this Poe story is the beginning.  The narrator basically starts with a spiel on how checkers players have to be more analytical than chess players, since “the higher powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more usefully tasked by the unostentatious game of draughts [checkers] than by the elaborate frivolity of chess.”  His words, not mine.  He argues that chess requires concentration, but checkers requires cleverness, as when, for example, a game of checkers results in four kings and one player wins.  I like this bit very much, since I’m good at checkers and absolutely dismal at chess.

The real story, of course, centers upon the meeting of C. Auguste Dupin and the narrator, as well as a gory murder case which occurs soon after.  It’s hard to believe I had forgotten the solution to the mystery; now it seems very memorable and one I’m not likely to forget again.  The detective work doesn’t seem very impressive compared to a Holmes story, and you might think it less than believable for an armchair detective (Dupin visits the scene of the crime, but the bulk of his work is done at home).  Once again, though, I’m left wishing there were more than three stories to this series!

In personality and profile, the similarities between Dupin and Holmes are extraordinary.  Both are implied to be born into the “landed gentry” or better, yet fallen upon hard financial and/or personal times.  Both are well educated eccentrics with an interest in crime-solving as a methodical science.  Both have a flare for the dramatic at unexpected moments.  The main differences I can see is that Dupin tends to rely heavily on intuition and probabilities, which Holmes might find to be shaky ground.  Holmes, too, is completely dedicated to his work and (at the beginning) tries very hard to further his career, while Dupin – perhaps having more to fall back upon – is content to leave it all as a hobby, just another puzzle to contemplate during his retreat from society.

I’d better stop there…

   “You remind me of Edgar Allen Poe’s Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist outside of stories.”
   Sherlock Holmes rose and lit his pipe. “No doubt you think that you are complimenting me in comparing me to Dupin,” he observed. “Now, in my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of breaking in on his friends’ thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour’s silence is really very showy and superficial. He had some analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such a phenomenon as Poe appeared to imagine.”

The only time Holmes seems like a fictional character is when he takes offense being compared to one.  Oops!

10 ♦ Beauty and the Beast

Once again – I assure you I shuffled this deck very well!  But I can’t really complain to get another fairytale, and what could be more appropriate for Valentine’s weekend than this story?

The original “Beauty and the Beast” was written in the 18th century by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont.  According to the endnotes of the online version I read, Beaumont in turn based her story on a folktale retelling by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.

It’s interesting that in both cases the author was female, because I’ve always felt that Belle (to use her Disney name!) was one of the best fairytale heroines.  In this story, she is completely unselfish and quite honest in her feelings for the Beast, which are initially just those of friendship.  The Beast himself is more melancholy than sinister, and even for a short story the romance is developed enough to make sense and bring closure at the end.

I would say one thing Disney did right was to make the antagonist Gaston, the sleazy suitor, instead of keeping Belle’s selfish sisters, which is already done in other fairytales.  Also, as I’m reading the synopsis to Villeneuve’s version on Wikipedia, it seems that Beaumont chose to omit the Beast’s backstory, thereby omitting some of the depth to the tale.  On the other hand, the benefit of it is that Beaumont’s story is Belle-centric, and you feel that she has finally found happily-ever-after through her own virtues and endeavors.